Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut – Derrick Barnes - The barbershop is where the magic happens. Boys go in as lumps of clay and, with princely robes draped around their shoulders, a dab of cool shaving cream on their foreheads, and a slow, steady cut, they become royalty. That crisp yet subtle line makes boys sharper, more visible, more aware of every great thing that could happen to them when they look good: lesser grades turn into As; girls take notice; even a mother’s hug gets a little tighter. Everyone notices.
The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas – Starr Carter has learned to live in two worlds, managing her life as a prep-school student by day while returning each night to the low-income neighborhood she calls home. After witnessing the murder of her unarmed friend Khalil by a police officer, these two worlds collide, and Starr must decide what risks she is willing to take to pursue justice.
Long Way Down – Jason Reynolds – William Holloman is on the most haunting elevator ride of his life. He’s been urged to break “the rules” he’s grown up with. (No crying. No snitching. Get revenge.) Reynolds’ first novel in verse is a provocative, compelling, and essential love letter to young people in detention centers.
The Stars Beneath Our Feet provides a realistic lens on the Black American experience and infuses it with heart, soul, and imagination. Lolly Rachpaul tries to steer a safe path through the projects in Harlem in the wake of his brother’s death in this outstanding debut novel that celebrates community and creativity.
It’s Christmas Eve, but twelve-year-old Lolly Rachpaul and his mom aren’t celebrating. They’re still reeling from his older brother’s death in a gang-related shooting just a few months earlier. Then a friend brings him a gift that will change everything: two enormous bags filled with Legos. Lolly’s always loved Legos, and he prides himself on following the kit instructions exactly. Now, faced with a pile of building blocks and no instructions, Lolly must find his own way forward.
His path isn’t clear—and the pressure to join a “crew,” as his brother did, is always there, but the Legos will provide Lolly with an escape—and an unexpected bridge back to the world.